Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues

Martin Scorsese Presents "The Blues"

Part Three of Four

First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11

Written by John Metzger


Warming by the Devil's Fire

Various Artists
Warming by the Devil's Fire: A Film by Charles Burnett

In Warming by the Devilís Fire, Charles Burnett relays the fictional account of a 12-year-old boy who in the 1950s was sent to Mississippi to be baptized. There, the child was caught between the worlds of his two uncles ó one who is a preacher and one who introduces him to the darker side of life.

The blues were long associated with corruption and debauchery, and given the storyline of the film as well as the artists represented on its associated soundtrack, one gets the sense that, perhaps, Warming by the Devilís Fire might trace the vagabond lifestyle from rural Mississippi to urban centers like Chicago and New York City, while covering the transformation of the blues from devilís music to its acceptance by the church as well as by society. Although the collection includes tracks from Robert Johnson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe while wandering from the gruff Delta blues of Charley Pattonís Hang It on the Wall to the metropolitan grit of Sonny Boy Williamsonís Cross My Heart and covering both the back porch moan of Son Houseís Death Letter as well as the sophisticated air of Billie Holidayís Iím a Fool to Want You, this isnít exactly the case.

Instead of telling a story or sticking to a particular theme, Warming by the Devilís Fire pays tribute to the blues by unearthing a myriad of vintage recordings that never received their proper due. Two-thirds of the tracks were recorded before 1955, and included are many nearly forgotten gems such as Jelly Roll Mortonís jazzy Turtle Twist, Mildred Jonesí innuendo-laden Mr. Thrill, the Memphis Jug Bandís weary K.C. Moan, Sister Rosetta Tharpeís uplifting Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air), and Bessie Smithís boisterous Muddy Water. Although the song cycle doesnít have quite the cohesiveness of some of the other soundtracks, the set remains extraordinarily engaging, perfectly demonstrating the raw, seductive power of the blues. starstarstar Ĺ


46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Album Notes

46th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Historical Album


Of Further Interest...

Part One: Feel Like Going Home: A Film by Martin Scorsese

Part Two: The Soul of a Man: A Film by Wim Wenders

Part Four: Piano Blues: A Film by Clint Eastwood


Warming by the Devil's Fire is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

The Blues: A Musical Journey (CD Box Set) is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

The Blues: A Musical Journey (DVD Box Set) is available
from To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2003 The Music Box